Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Meetings vary in form: some are open to spontaneous outburst as members are moved to speak, some have ministers like mainline Protestant sects while others, like the one here, are silent and amount to an hour of meditation. If guests are moved to speak, they are not silenced, but neither are they encouraged.
The Meeting House is unheated but for the little box stove. The blankets are used as lap robes in fall, winter and spring. The Meeting House sits in a grove of towering white pines and has very little opportunity for solar gain -- it doesn't get particularly warm even in summer. As the stove is small and the stove pipe now by code has to be double-walled, it doesn't give off any near as much heat as the old single-walled pipe. So we all bundle up, keep our outerwear on, and wrap our legs up during our contemplative hours.
We're cataloging the books with the idea of exploring any interest in them by the libraries of divinity schools. The earliest we've come across so far is dated 1809. The great majority come from mid-century and a surprising number are anonymous as to author. In the title page there will be the name of he book and the only credit will be "by the author of" followed by the names of several other books. A great many are what might be called moral tales for youth; these are typical:
Anon. Blind Willie; or, The Way to Heaven American Tract Society New York undated
Friday, June 22, 2012
Brooklyn Rider is a thoroughly 21st century "downtown" group that will be making its debut at the Caramoor Festival north of New York City in the lush countryside of Katonah and Bedford in Westchester County. Located on an old estate of baronial splendor, Caramoor had always been a bastion of the classic 19th century repertory in opera, symphonic and chamber music.
A new music director has, however, decreed that "contemporary" is not a four letter word. New works and new musicians are flooding into Caramoor's programs and will continue to do so even though the new director was almost physically accosted last summer by a furious audience member who informed him in no uncertain terms that a piece by Elliot Carter had "RUINED the program" that was otherwise made up of works by Schubert, et al. Perhaps not coincidentally, attendance at Caramoor has increased since the change in programing went into effect, after several years of slow decline.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 19, 2012
As usual from that source, everybody's to blame but them. Interestingly, I came across this fascinating dedicatory page from one of the Quaker books I'm helping to catalog:
This from a normally tolerant, pacifistic Quaker! I looked up Archbishop Hughes and found an immigrant child from Ireland who was educated in the Philadelphia area and entered the priesthood, rising in the ranks until he was named Bishop of New York City in 1842, and Archbishop when the Diocese was upgraded in 1850. This assignment placed him on the receiving end of the great flood of Irish immigration resulting from the catastrophic failure of the Irish potato crop in 1845.
Desperate for food, shelter and jobs, the Irish poured out of any hulk that could reasonably expect to make it across the Atlantic and settled along the East Coast, most notably in Boston but also New York where riots and persecution awaited them. Hughes managed just barely to save the old St. Patrick's Cathedral on Mulberry Street from mobs that wanted to burn it by marshaling 'round the clock defense by thousands of Irish guards until that particularly bad persecution blew itself out. Given the huge spike in the Irish Catholic population of New York, Hughes planned and began construction of the current St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue in 1858.
So far, so good. But Hughes had a dark side that manifested itself in efforts to persecute other minorities -- and he strongly opposed the abolition of slavery. From Wikipedia: "In 1850 he delivered an address entitled "The Decline of Protestantism and Its Causes," in which he announced as the ambition of Roman Catholicism 'to convert all Pagan nations, and all Protestant nations . . . Our mission [is] to convert the world—including the inhabitants of the United States—the people of the cities, and the people of the country . . . the Legislatures, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President, and all!'" The Quaker book's dedicatory page is dated 1854, and makes total sense in light of Hughes' militantly aggressive statement four years previously.
Ironically, Old St. Patrick's still stands on Mulberry street in lower Manhattan. At the end of its second century, its site declares that it looks forward proudly to serving a neighborhood that, in the decades following the death of Hughes in 1864, saw settlement by Jews, Italians, and Chinese -- none of whom would have gotten much respect from Archbishop Hughes.*
*I base this statement on my Catholic school education by Irish Catholic nuns. They announced that Italian Catholics were too emotional, nowhere near strict enough, and should be avoided. Given that those were the days when the Papacy was firmly in Italian hands, you have to wonder. And given that I identify strongly with my Italian heritage on my father's side, you can probably think your way through to my reaction.
And finally, for all my musician friends:
Friday, June 15, 2012
This graph appeared on the web without a great deal of provenance. That said, from what I've read of history, it seems reasonably accurate. The Greek bar probably should show a rather higher angle because of their great achievements in mathematics (which the Arabs recognized, admired and upon which they built in major ways) but in general, as a talking point, it will do nicely.
There was a book by Thomas Cahill, written from a typically Eurocentric, Christiancentric perspective, called "How the Irish saved Civilization" that credited Irish monks with copying books (probably a good three to six months for one sizable book) to preserve their contents. Arab scribes who were trained for speed and concentration, aided no end by the flowing Arabic script and the smoothness of paper versus the rougher texture of parchment, could copy a book in two to three days. With hundreds of them working, shipments to libraries and book sellers throughout the Muslim world went out frequently. And authors benefited from an early version of the royalty system.
The catastrophic decline of knowledge and achievement during the Christian Dark Ages was largely self-induced. Most of the great Greek and Roman libraries were burned because they were pagan and therefore filled with lies and works of the evil, according to the bishops and popes who ordered their destruction. (As late as the 1400s, Catholics were still burning libraries. When Ferdinand and Isabella took possession of Granada on January 2, 1492 from the last Muslim ruler in Spain, one of their first actions, the very next day, was to have the approximately 500,000 volume library taken out of the Alhambra palace and burned in the Plaza Bib-Rambla) . Medicine faltered, construction techniques reverted to primitive stone upon stone building with the sophisticated lightweight Roman concrete formulas gone. Religious superstition replaced provable science.
The same thing could happen today, here. There are people working to make it happen.
I was not familiar with the Chinese city of Tianjin (north of Beijing more or less on the border with Mongolia) until last week when this picture of the city's new performing arts center appeared along with an article on the tremendous boom in arts complexes throughout China. The building below contains a western-style opera house, concert hall and a moderately sized theater. Subsidiary buildings contain other performance spaces, libraries, and other arts-related activities
Zhou Long was premiered in Boston and won the Pulitzer Prize for opera in 2011 to give just two examples. American and other Western artists are welcomed by China to perform and to give master classes. Chairman and Madame Mao's Cultural Revolution that stunted Zhou Long's musical education until he could get out of China and study in the West, is long gone and discredited.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Eventually, he gave in and studied royal portraits through the ages, including existing photographs of Elizabeth taken throughout her reign. He then focused on the furniture, ornamentation and colors of the potential backgrounds, anxious to include the grandeur but not allow the richness of detail to overwhelm the face. He did the shoot at Windsor Castle a little over a year ago, working extensively with one of the Queens ladies in waiting who would bring dresses, suits, jewelry and other accessories for him to review in relation to backgrounds that looked desirable. He then made his choices, all of which were approved by the subject. The image above is the final choice from among all the pictures Struth shot.
So much is going on that's so right -- they're a couple, but the color of the dress and hair and slight extra light on her face make you look at her. The clothing is simple; her not overly-fitted dress is almost casual and doesn't distance her. It's The Windsors at Home but the rich yet subdued background, accented and anchored by the great standing candelabra lamp, sets the royal tone. It's much like an excellently propped and costumed stage set -- which in fact it is. And it has interested me in exploring Thomas Struth's other work.
Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has survived the recall attempt and is claiming vindication for his anti-union stand. His new project is to deny GLBT people rights visit their partners in the hospital.
Walker wants the state to cease defending its domestic partner registry on the grounds that it's unconstitutional. This is from the Associated Press:
Members of the conservative group Wisconsin Family Action filed a lawsuit last summer arguing the registry violates the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. Former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat who proposed the registry as a means of granting same-sex couples more legal rights, chose to defend the registry and had filed a motion asking Dane County Circuit Judge Daniel Moeser for summary judgment upholding it. Walker, a Republican, inherited the case from Doyle when he took office in January.Walker has filed documents saying the registry shouldn't be defended because it mimics marriage, and is unconstitutional because of that. The registry, which has somewhat fewer than 1400 couples listed, guarantees same-sex couples the right to visit each other in hospitals, make end-of-life decisions, and inherit each other's property, just as married couples do. A laundry list of other rights is still denied, but former Governor Doyle's registry unquestionably filled a great need and is now endangered. A gay advocacy group, Fair Wisconsin, will step up to defend the registry in the absence of state support. Governor Walker's opposition will continue; somehow guaranteeing all citizens of the state the rights to protect and exercise their relationships as they so choose is a danger to the concept of small government.
Some gratuitous Animal pictures:
Monday, June 04, 2012
Mitt's birth certificate lists his father's birthplace as Mexico and has revived the question of George Romney's eligibility to run for president, which he did in the late 1960s.
Questions were occasionally asked about Romney's eligibility to run for President due to his birth in Mexico, given the ambiguity in the United States Constitution over the phrase "natural-born citizen".
His Mormon paternal grandfather and his three wives had fled to Mexico in 1886, but none of them ever relinquished U.S. citizenship. While the Constitution requires that a president must be a natural-born citizen, the first Congress of the United States in 1790 passed legislation stating: "The children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond the sea, or outside the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural-born citizens of the United States." Romney and his family fled Mexico in 1912 during the Mexican Revolution.
During the campaign, Romney was generally considered a viable and legal candidate for United States president. He departed the race before the matter could be more definitively resolved, although the preponderance of opinion since then has been that he was eligible.
From Newser on the web (bolding of the key statement is mine):
As early as 1967, Democratic members of Congress were questioning whether George Romney was eligible to run for president, leading to numerous legal arguments which concluded that Romney—whose parents were American citizens who moved to a polygamous Mormon colony in Mexico—was indeed a "natural born citizen." The Congressional Research Service issued a paper saying the legal meaning of natural born citizen "most likely" included anybody born out of the US with at least one parent who was an American citizen. The elder Romney's own take, via a written statement from his records: "I am a natural born citizen. My parents were American citizens. I was a citizen at birth."
Not both parents, but at least one parent. As that statement came from Congress's own research department, it would undermine the birthers' tiresome campaign. Barack Obama's mother was an American citizen, and it wouldn't matter whether he was born in Hawaii or not given Congress's 1790 legislation that birth on U.S. soil wasn't necessary anyway.
Now to everyone out there (Mr. Trump) who insists on beating an obviously dead horse, could we all please get working on real problems that need real solutions?
CNN's site published a severe condemnation of Facebook last week, including all the usual accusations that it's destroying conversation, promoting ignorance, etc., etc. My thoughts:
I view Facebook as a tool that, like any tool, can be used or misused. I choose to use it for keeping in touch with people I care about -- family, friends, colleagues both former and current, and internet friends I initially encountered through their blogs. Blogging and Facebook have brought me together with people, many of whom I value deeply as essential in my life; in other words I have used Facebook to enliven, enrich and increase my community. As to privacy, one can control what one decides to reveal. I really don't understand such blanket condemnation as CNN's. Apparently, they deny that we have any discretion or control over our own lives.